Unbundle training and what is left for L&D?

Recently, I posted on the theme of unbundling. I threatened at that point to return to the theme. This post makes good on that threat.

Having considered open access to ‘bundled learning’ in the form of a MOOC – or open access to formal learning – I would like to pick at the idea of unbundling training. In order to get under way, I should probably establish some definitions. I consider training to be formal. In my world view, training means courses. This might have a ring of judgement to it but that would be misleading. This is intended to be descriptive. Training courses and formal learning are valuable and important. As the world returns to the idea of blended learning as an obvious step, formality is inherently part of any blend we design.

I do, however, have a problem with trainers who, reflexively, reduce learning to courses. The Learning=Training=Course equation boils so much of the goodness out the opportunities we have to learn. This is the central cultural challenge of the L&D profession. A professional service which grew strong on a diet of courses and the related menu items of the LMS, TNA, evaluation forms etc., is struggling to find a relevant role in a increasingly disrupted and user driven working world. The course bundle is weighty, inflexible and slow in 2016.

As informed and savvy consumers of learning, we are quick to become frustrated at the eLearning course bundle. We can detect the relevance and usefulness of the content in there (once we have identified the right bundle in the bundle management system) but we can’t easily get at it or extract it or use it in a different way. I suspect we have all suffered low moments of concentration in a classroom too, where we need to sit through sections of a course that are less relevant or helpful to us (graveyard slot anyone?). Having booked for the whole bundle, this is our lot.

Bundles tend to favour the bundler and their mode of production, distribution and planning. Many L&D services operate in modes of the training supplier and are disposed to, if not locked in to, course offerings. Bundles are also a product of a world where scarcity and control of distribution are in place. The combination of Google, Wikipedia and YouTube have rather torn down the edifice of controlled access to knowledge and information, perhaps also to skills learning. It now seems bizarre to lock knowledge into a course (unless you are an anxious trainer fearing for the future; the black cab driver of learning to the Uber threat of open access learning). Newer learning technology services are alive to this shift in dynamics – Looop, Tessello and Noddlepod are useful examples to consider – and are supporting the easy production and distribution of knowledge and expertise. They are helping to unbundle the value of the service and allow direct distribution of learning value to the learner.  More power to them I say. Quicker, simpler and cheaper. Easier to measure too.

There is a less comfortable consequence to this liberal unbundling, however. The legacy services that have made their living from the old ways are hit beneath the waterline as their offer is disaggregated and access is opened. A real challenge to training services has been laid down. It is quite easy for departments in an organisation to teach and train themselves by capturing their experience and expertise and open it up for access to their workers directly. A good tool will support them in monitoring the effectiveness of this too. Retreating to familiar ground and raising the drawbridge will not be a useful response for long I fear.



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